One in 10 TB cases in China resistant to standard drugs

A new study based on a national survey has determined that one in 10 cases of tuberculosis in China is drug-resistant.

Researchers said that the results of the study, which was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, show that the Chinese government needs to invest more in public health services in order to better diagnose and treat resistant strains of the contagious lung disease, CBS News reports.

The study shows the size and scope of the drug-resistant epidemic. It is based on data collected in 2007 and is in line with previous estimates based on provincial data.

The researchers said hospitals and doctors in China must be prevented from misusing drugs that could contribute to drug resistance.

"For the first time, we have a representative, national survey of this problem in China. It shows that this is pretty serious," Dr. Daniel Chin, a TB expert at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Beijing who is one of the study's authors, said, CBS News reports. "One in 10, by any standard globally, would be pretty high."

TB cases are usually cured in six to nine months with a combination of four antibiotics. The bacteria can mutate into strains that can no longer be killed by the standard drugs if the treatment is interrupted or the dosages reduced.

"This is a very grave situation because we don't have any new drugs to treat the patients with," Dr. Wang Yu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and another study author, said, according to CBS News. "It is a problem that the whole world is facing...and over time, it will only increase."